Ouray Group Needs New Blood, Younger Blood
OURAY – Michelangelo may not be there to record the scene, but this year’s edition of the Ouray County Nordic Council fundraising dinner could be the last supper of its kind.
OCNC stalwart and board member Keith Meinert said this week that his group will definitely groom the cross-county trails in the Ironton Park area again this winter, but he cannot promise anything beyond the upcoming ski season. The nine-member board, which has an average age of 67, is “considering disbanding” after this winter, Meinert said.
“We need new blood and younger blood,” he told The Watch. “The nine of us have been doing the work for so many years, doing things the way we always have. Are we just set in our ways? Or hard to get along with? For whatever reasons we haven’t been able to get new people into leadership roles, decision-making roles. Lyn [Meinert] has been de facto president for the last few years. And she has appealed for relief.”
This year’s dinner is coming up Tuesday night, Nov. 13 (beginning at 6:30 p.m.), at the Ouray Community Center. It’s a long-standing Ouray tradition to raise money for the grooming and maintaining of Nordic trails at Ironton and along the river in the North Ouray Corridor (when there’s snow in town). It is also, according to Meinert, “a family-friendly gathering for locals to celebrate the changing of the seasons.”
Meinert is hoping this dinner won’t signal a “last hurrah” for trail grooming. “Yes, we are making a plea for younger enthusiasts to step up and take over.”
It would be a shame to lose momentum at this point, Meinert said, especially with the new, purpose-built, trail-grooming snowmobile purchased just last year, and the board’s plans to expand the trail system in Ironton. “We’ve been talking with the Forest Service about expanding our trails. And we are planning to expand the skating this winter,” Meinert said, cognizant of skate-skiing’s growing popularity. “We’re going to groom a new 12-foot wide loop, about a mile long, from the parking area south along the base of the tailings pond to the wide-open summer camping area and back again.”
The organization has come a long way, Meinert said, in the 25 plus years since its inception. “The birth of the OCNC occurred around 1986 with a half dozen avid backcountry skiers trying to fill a need for an organized Nordic ski venue. They created maps, cleared and marked a few trails in Ironton and packed in some of the trails by foot and various hand-drawn implements.”
Much has changed in that quarter century. The OCNC map shows three-to-four miles (about seven km) of groomed trail in and around the old mining ghost town of Ironton north of Red Mountain Pass. And there is another seven km of ungroomed, marked, backcountry trails. (The North Corridor Trail loops around the old Biota building north of Ouray for about two miles on both sides of the Uncompahgre River.)
But, Meinert said, “Unfortunately, one thing that hasn’t changed in the OCNC is its board. “Some of the same people who boot-packed the trails back in the mid-1980s are still the backbone of the Nordic organization. They have aged a bit in the intervening years . . . They are all heavily involved in other community organizations and ready to give way to new leadership in the OCNC.
“The Nordic Council needs new blood. Not just a transfusion (or more popular blood doping), but a complete change of DNA.”
Each of the current directors is willing to serve as a resource for a successful transition, Meinert emphasized, “but none are interested in continuing to lead the organization.”
The board, he said, “appreciates the generosity and enthusiasm of the OCNC members and local businesses that have made this happen for so many years. The fundraising dinners would not have been possible without the Lingenfelters’ very generous donation of fine Mexican food from the Buen Tiempo for many years.
“It’s been a great ride, but even the best-groomed trail must end.”
It doesn’t have to come to an end. Come to the dinner Nov. 13, and consider volunteering for an institution that has provided a wonderful recreational amenity, for visitors and the local community, for a generation.